The quest for the perfect cupcake

On my 17th birthday, my creative writing teacher threw a small bash for me. She gave me presents of fine-tipped markers, an amazing journal with the most beautiful paper I’ve ever had privilege to touch (I still haven’t used it), and an epically moist Easter cupcake (that’s one of the benefits of having an April birthday – all the jelly beans and chocolate bunnies I can eat).

easter-cupcakeIt was the cupcake to end the love affair with all other cupcakes in my life. It was an Entemann’s Holiday Cupcake – the perfect combination  of golden cake, fudge frosting, and piped swirl of vanilla icing – cupcakes that are made sporatically throughout the year. Never before had such beauty in pastry form passed my lips, not even my own baking.

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I remembered the cupcakes that altered my life forever. I went in search of them at the nearest grocery store, but they were out of season.

Out of season – my cupcakes. I was devastated.

It is for that very reason that I took it upon myself this weekend to recreate this confectionery masterpiece with all the pastry skills I posses. The resulting cupcakes, while not decorated with “seasonally appropriate” sprinkles or colored frosting, is certainly less than the 290 calories a pop that the originals boast.

Easter cupcake photo from lonelybob on flickr.

Entemann’s Holiday Cupcakes: Niki-style

cuppycakies1

There are several parts and take over an hour to prepare. Makes 24+ cupcakes.

Cupcake:

—Yellow or white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist Golden Vanilla)

1. Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box. Pour into lined cupcake pans.

2. Cool the cupcakes completely.

Fudge Frosting:

—2 Tbsp chilled butter

—1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey’s is my favorite)

—1 tsp vanilla extract

—2 Tbsp cold water

1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and the chilled butter. If you don’t have a double boiler, improvise with a bowl over a medium saucepan. DON’T melt your chocolate in the microwave!

2. Once the chocolate mixture  is melted thoroughly, add the vanilla extract, and then the cold water, tablespoon by tablespoon.

3. Put the mixture in the fridge to chill.

Buttercream Icing

—1 C vegetable shortening (I used Crisco butter flavor)

—1/2 C milk

—1/4 tsp salt

—2 tsp. vanilla

—2 lbs confectioner’s sugar (2 boxes)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer. You’ll have a LOT of buttercream icing for 24 cupcakes, but think about all the other uses it will have, like decorating cakes or brownies!

Assemble the cupcakes:

1. Spread a small amount of fudge frosting on top of the cupcake, smoothing it out to the edges. Place the cupcakes in the fridge as each is frosted. This will allow the frosting to set.

2. Fill a pastry bag (or a a zip-loc bag with the tip cut off) with a portion of the buttercream icing. Pipe a double border around the edge of the cupcakes. I used an Easy Decorator pastry bag set with a closed star tip. If you don’t have a fancy tip, don’t worry. It’s simple to make swirls with a zip-loc bag.

3. Put the cupcakes back in the fridge to chill or serve immediately!

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